Reverse Soldering: Tiny Bubbles Pearl and Turquoise Invisible Setting Necklace by Betsy Lehndorff

Seafoam turquoise flecked with pearls in invisible settings show soldering in reverse

By Betsy Lehndorff

“We were shocked,” says Dave Otteson about the find he made with his family three years ago. They’d hit a mother lode of turquoise at his Candelaria Hills Big Nugget mine outside Mina, Nevada. An excavated cut in a wall of crumbling desert rock was loaded with masses of turquoise nuggets. When Dave pulled the material out and cleaned them up, they looked like chunks of blue cauliflower.

“You just never see that kind of sea foamy nugget,” the 72-year-old recalls. At the 2015 Denver gem and mineral shows, Otteson sat behind a folding table loaded with specimens and slabs. He was unsure how to price the nuggets and was hoping to get $4,000 a pound. Meanwhile, he said, an assay of the material by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) was due to arrive any day.

Dealers were skeptical. Slabs of the matrix-free turquoise were an intense blue on the outside, but whitish inside. However, when Dave held a piece against a flashlight beam, it turned blue. Cautious, I spent $100 on a small chunk and told Dave I would be interested in writing a story once he sent me a GIA report.

Nothing happened until January 2018, when a copy of Otteson’s assay finally arrived, confirming the gem material was semi-transparent to opaque turquoise. But by then, Dave had only two pounds left. That’s mining for you. Regardless, Otteson’s turquoise was a treasure to work with. A clean blue color, its hardness stood up to my abuse. My chunk even survived the “oops-I-dropped-it-on-the-concrete-floor-of-my-studio” test. Someday, maybe, Otteson will find more.

Reverse Soldering: Tiny Bubbles Pearl and Turquoise Invisible Setting Necklace by Betsy Lehndorff

Reverse Soldering: Tiny Bubbles Pearl and Turquoise Invisible Setting Necklace by Betsy Lehndorff


Sawing, controlled soldering, measuring with calipers, stone carving and drilling

• Seafoam turquoise 40x25mm or botryoidal gemstone
• 1.75×2.5 inch 20 gauge sterling silver sheet
• 5 inches each 20 and 22
• gauge sterling silver wire • Medium and hard solder
• 4 inches 1.63mm OD sterling silver tubing
• 30 to 40 half-drilled round, freshwater pearls from 2.5 to 5mm
• 16-inch strand graduated, round, freshwater pearls
• 8 emerald beads
• 22 inches sterling silver Soft Flex Fine for stringing beads
• Sterling silver clasp and catch
• 4 each sterling silver crimps and crimp covers



Camera, computer and printer or smartphone with photo editing function


Safety glasses; flat lap set up; flexible shaft and handpiece; several 1mm diamond drill bits; 3, 4, and 5mm diamond ball burs; pie plate with water


Bench pin, jeweler’s saw, 4/ 0 blades, hallmark stamps and chasing hammer, rubberized bead mat, double-sided sticky tape, watercolor brush, red and black Sharpie permanent markers, alcohol for cleanup, bench block, center punch, digital calipers, wire cutters, flexible shaft, 10 each of #67 and #70 highspeed steel twist drill bits, bur lube, chain nose pliers


Soldering set up with Soft Solderite soldering block, air/acetylene Silversmith torch with #0 tip, Prips flux in spray bottle, metal shears, solder pick, pickle, quench, small flat-bladed screw driver


Moore’s medium, X-Fine, and XX-Fine sanding disks and mandrel; 400-grit
(1500) Micro Mesh sanding cloth; shot-filled tumbler set up; bench polisher or handpiece buff and Fabuluster; hot, soapy water and tooth brush; disposable gloves; two-part epoxy; one-ounce plastic cups from a restaurant supply; box of superfine Micro brushes; cotton swabs and acetone for clean up; Teflonstyle dental floss


Bead tray, cutters, crimping tool

See inside the September/October issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist in our Lookbook!

BETSY LEHNDORFF has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010, including a story and project using Cripple Creek, Colorado, turquoise. She writes a weekly blog for Interweave Jewelry and teaches pearl carving.

Learn more about this project and many others in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist!

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